Manchuria (mănchŏŏr´ēə), Mandarin Dongbei sansheng [three northeastern provinces], region, c.600,000 sq mi (1,554,000 sq km), NE China. It is officially known as the Northeast. Manchuria is separated from Russia largely by the Amur, Argun, and Ussuri rivers, from North Korea by the Yalu and Tumen rivers, and from Mongolia by the Da Hinggan (Great Khingan) Mts. It includes the Liaodong peninsula. Until 1860 it included territory now in Siberia and until 1955 territory now in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. Provincial divisions have changed frequently, but since 1956 Manchuria has comprised Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Liaoning provs. Much of the region is hilly to mountainous. The Da and Xiao Hinggan (Great and Lesser Khingan) in the north and the Changbai in the east are the greatest ranges.
Land and Economy
Manchuria's vast timber reserves have been damaged by excessive cutting. Mineral resources, chiefly coal and iron, are concentrated in the southwest; there is a large colliery at Fushun and a large steel mill at Anshan. Magnesite, copper, lead, and zinc are also important, and there is a large oil field at Daqing, NW of Harbin. Uranium and gold deposits have also been found.
The great Manchurian plain (average elevation c.1,000 ft/300 m), crossed by the Liao and Songhua rivers, is the only extensively level area. Fertile and densely populated, it has been a major manufacturing and agricultural center of China. One of the few areas in the country suitable for large-scale mechanized agriculture, it has numerous collective farms. Long, severe winters limit harvests to one a year, but considerable quantities of soybeans are produced. Sweet potatoes, beans, and cereals (including rice, wheat, millet, and kaoliang) are also grown, and cotton, flax, and sugar beets are raised as industrial crops. The processing of soybeans into oil, animal feed, and fertilizer is centered in cities in or near the plain, notably Changchun, Harbin, and Shenyang. Livestock are raised in the north and the west, and fishing is important off the Yellow Sea coast.
The chief commercial port is Dalian; Lüshun, which is administratively part of Dalian, is a major naval base. All rivers are navigable, but only the Songhua has significant heavy traffic. When the rivers freeze, they are used as roadways. An extensive rail system connects the hinterland with the coastal ports; major lines are the South Liaoning RR and the Northeast RR. The building of the railroads (after 1896) spurred industrial development. Manchuria is a great industrial hub, with huge coal mines, iron- and steelworks, aluminum-reduction plants, paper mills, and factories making heavy machinery, tractors, locomotives, aircraft, and chemicals. Since the 1980s, however, the region's inefficient state-controlled companies have had trouble gearing production to an economy that is increasingly market-oriented.
Manchuria is traditionally the homeland of peoples that have invaded and sometimes ruled N China. Among the most important of these tribes were the Tungus, Eastern Turks, Khitan, and Jurchen. It was the home of the Manchu conquerors of China. The Manchus tried to keep Manchuria an imperial preserve by limiting Chinese immigration. During the 20th cent., however, emigration to Manchuria from the adjacent provinces was heavy, and the population is now predominantly Chinese.
Japan and Russia long struggled for control of this rich, strategically important region. Japan tried to seize the Liao-tung peninsula in 1895, but was forestalled by the Triple Intervention. From 1898 to 1904 Russia was dominant. As a result of a Russo-Chinese alliance against Japan, the Russians built Harbin, the naval base at Port Arthur, and the Chinese Eastern RR. Japan, after victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5), took control of Port Arthur and the southern half of Manchuria (see Liaoning), limiting Russian influence to the north. Chiefly through the South Manchurian RR, Japan developed the region's economy. From 1918 to 1931 the warlords Chang Tso-lin and Chang Hsüeh-liang controlled Chinese military power in Manchuria.
Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931–32, when Chinese military resistance, sapped by civil war, was weak. The seizure of Manchuria was, in effect, an unofficial declaration of war on China. Manchuria was a base for Japanese aggression in N China and a buffer region for Japanese-controlled Korea. In 1932, under the aegis of Japan, Manchuria with Rehe prov. was constituted Manchukuo, a nominally independent state. During World War II the Japanese developed the Dalian, Anshan, Fushun, Shenyang, and Harbin areas into a huge industrial complex of metallurgical, coal, petroleum, and chemical industries. Soviet forces, which occupied Manchuria from July, 1945, to May, 1946, dismantled and removed over half of the Manchurian industrial plant.
At the end of the war the Chinese Communists were strongly established in Manchuria and by 1948 had captured the major cities and inflicted devastating losses on the Nationalist army. From 1949 to 1954 Manchuria, ruled by Gao Gang, was the most staunch of the Communist areas in China. With the help of Soviet technicians the Communists rapidly restored Manchuria's large industrial capacity. After the Sino-Soviet rift in the 1960s there was a massive Soviet military buildup along the border, and several border incidents occurred. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, these incidents have subsided. China's changing economic policies led to renewed investment in the region in 1978, but the ensuing shift to a market economy resulted in unemployment and stagnant growth in the state-controlled businesses.